Unregistered marriages (nikah siri) in Indonesia are a familiar thing, despite the ensuing controversy. The most recent polemic surrounding the issue concerns Garut Regent Aceng Fikri, who has come under fire for marrying a 17-year-old girl, identified only as FO, in an unregistered Islamic marriage ceremony on July 14, only to divorce her via text message four days later.
The case has drawn public attention, including from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who through Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, asked for an investigation of the regent, whom he said had violated women’s rights.
The big question is why unregistered marriages persist despite their adverse impact on women.
Many cases of unregistered marriages have come to the fore, as women have not been able to claim their rights as a wives as stated in Law No. 1/1974 on marriage. Their rights include the right...